McCain?s VP pick has too much on her plate

By By James Sewell

By James Sewell

No sooner had the finishing touches been placed on my previous column when yet another surprise fell into my opinionated lap: Sarah Palin, McCain’s inexplicable VP choice, was soon to be a grandmother, because of her 17-year-old daughter’s hormonal sojourn in the bed (or car’s backseat) of her boyfriend. The announcement that Bristol Palin is pregnant was followed by a compassionate statement from soon-to-be granny and VP candidate Palin in which she pledged her love for her daughter, and told reporters that Bristol would be keeping the baby (okay) and marrying the father (what the %*?).

Marrying at 17 may not turn many heads here in Utah, but does anyone else really think that marrying off a teenager will somehow legitimize the child and make for a union lasting, if not for time and all eternity, at least until the kid is old enough to spawn? Nobody on planet Earth is capable of making an informed decision of such gravity at that age. Keeping the child is an admirable choice, but not even precocious Juno wanted to marry Bleeker.

What does the decision say about Gov. Palin’s judgment? It’s understandable for a teenager to be full of confusion and to make hasty decisions, but you’d expect someone who has reached middle age to have a somewhat firmer grasp on the realities of parenthood and marital life.

Advising her daughter to marry the strapping young buck who impregnated her is beyond ludicrous. Sure, it’ll “make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” as Palin told reporters earlier this week. But maybe when she does grow up, she’ll realize that her husband is a much different person than she ever could have known and divorce proceedings will commence forthwith. One has to wonder what on earth Sen. McCain was thinking, given what he knew in advance of the announcement of Palin as his running mate. This might be a reflection of how we can expect a McCain administration to act: Listen to many different viewpoints (good), carefully weigh the pros and cons (also good), and then throw out all reason and rationality and make decisions based on cynicism (drilling in ANWR, evangelical outrage), and a lack of understanding (very, very bad).

If McCain drops dead a few years hence (choke, stroke, croak) and the nation looks to the VP for leadership, what will they find? A vice president with zero experience in matters of national security or the economy, and a track record on environmental issues that is spotty at best. She might have some firsthand experience with our dysfunctional health care system, but her support of pork-barrel projects like the infamous Bridge to Nowhere (at a cost of about $400 million) seems to be at odds with McCain’s own ersatz image as a crusader against such fiscal fandangos.

This is not about the ability of women to be both careerists and good mothers; it is about the ability of one woman, with a particularly difficult set of circumstances and distressing lack of credentials, to grapple well with urgent national issues. At some point or another in our lives, we’ve all bitten off more than we could chew. It is possible that this is a simple case of precisely that, but, unfortunately, this is not a time for choking it down and pressing on.

McCain should have picked someone else as his running mate given what he knew and when he knew it. The fact that he himself pressed on is precisely the kind of stubborn resistance to facing the larger reality that we need to eradicate in our leadership.

By the time this column appears, perhaps sanity will have been bestowed on the McCain campaign and my criticism will have been for naught. That’s the kind of change we should believe in.

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James Sewell